Air­lines promised to re­im­burse train ex­penses but later balked

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL - By Christo­pher Elliott

A: Nor­we­gian Air­lines should have kept its prom­ise. But legally, it didn’t have to. Here’s why: The drone in­ci­dent is con­sid­ered an “ex­tra­or­di­nary” cir­cum­stance, which is be­yond the air­line’s con­trol. It wasn’t re­quired to get you from Paris to Lon­don.

Fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing the is­sue: The Fort Lauderdale representa­tive made a ver­bal prom­ise, not a writ­ten one. And as I’ve al­ways said, talk is cheap. There’s no way to prove that Nor­we­gian said it would pay for your train tick­ets.

The next time some­one

My fam­ily and I booked round-trip flights to Eng­land on Nor­we­gian Air­lines as part of a 10-day va­ca­tion. On the morn­ing we were due to fly, Nor­we­gian no­ti­fied us that our flight had been can­celed be­cause of a drone in­ci­dent. It gave us a phone num­ber to call to re­book, but due to a heavy call volume, we were un­able to get through.

So we drove down to the Fort Lauderdale air­port, where we were to have left that evening, to speak to an air­line representa­tive in per­son. She told me our op­tions would be to get on a flight five days later, es­sen­tially cut­ting the va­ca­tion in half and los­ing a house rental and sport­ing tick­ets, or get on a flight to Paris that evening. If we did the Paris op­tion, she said, she could not fly us from Paris to Lon­don, but if we took the Eurostar train, we would be re­im­bursed for the train ex­penses.

We opted to go via Paris; ev­ery­thing worked out and we had a won­der­ful stay in Lon­don. When we re­turned, we sub­mit­ted our re­quest for re­im­burse­ment for the train. Our friends did the same. They got a de­nial first and sent a let­ter to Nor­we­gian to let them know their dis­ap­point­ment. Nor­we­gian then sent them a note say­ing it had re­con­sid­ered and sub­se­quently re­im­bursed them.

My de­nial came shortly there­after; when I asked why the air­line was not hon­or­ing the promised re­im­burse­ment, I was told that the representa­tive in Fort Lauderdale was not au­tho­rized to of­fer such re­im­burse­ment. Then I asked why our friends’ re­quest was hon­ored and not mine, and the re­sponse was that our friends’ re­im­burse­ment was a mis­take.

I feel as though the air­line should honor its representa­tive’s prom­ise. Can you help me? from an air­line of­fers you some­thing off-menu, get it in writ­ing. If they refuse to put it on pa­per, at least get the full name and num­ber of the help­ful representa­tive. That way, you can ref­er­ence the con­ver­sa­tion when plead­ing your case.

I list the names, num­bers and email ad­dresses of the Nor­we­gian Air­lines cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tives on my con­sumer ad­vo­cacy site. A quick, po­lite note to one of them might have helped.

I think it’s in­ter­est­ing that Nor­we­gian re­im­bursed your friends, but not you, for the same itin­er­ary change. It should have re­funded you for the tick­ets, too, as it had promised — and for con­sis­tency’s sake. Mak­ing a U-turn was bad form.

I con­tacted Nor­we­gian on your be­half. It re-ex­am­ined your claim and de­cided to re­fund you $1,137, the cost of your train tick­ets to Lon­don.

Christo­pher Elliott is the om­buds­man for Na­tional Geo­graphic Traveler mag­a­zine and the au­thor of “How to Be the World’s Smartest Traveler.” You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at [email protected]

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